Joe R. Lansdale, one of our favorite authors here at BookPeople in any section – and he’s in several – comes to speak and sign his latest novel, Paradise Sky, Thursday, June 25th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. Paradise Sky tells the fictionalized early adventures of Nat Love, one of the first black western heroes. We caught up with him to discuss the book and the period he was writing about. Mr. Lansdale joins us in conversation with Tim Bryant, whose latest novel is Constellations.
MysteryPeople: What struck you about Nat Love to make him the hero of a novel?
Joe R. Lansdale: First off, there is so little written about the black experience in the west. I also liked he was a real person. I could tell from reading it he had had a real cowboy experience. He enhanced it the way all the storytellers of that time did, and I liked the mythical aspect of him stretching the truth in the same way other frontiersmen did. I hadn’t read anything like his book about the black experience in the west.
MP: You also have other historical figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Bass Reeves. Was there one in particular you had fun portraying?
JRL: Bass Reeves. He was revered by most, but some thought him over tough. I played on that. Again, I wanted to touch on people who had done to some degree what Nat in his autobiography, claimed to have done.
MP: What did you want to express about the place and time?
That people had to be rugged to survive, and that in most ways it was a harder experience for African-Americans, and unlike movie portrayal, they were more than cooks and maids. A large portion of the working cowboys were black.
MP: Are there any rules you go by when writing for period?
JRL: I actually try to follow a historical timeline and I research the real people I write about.
MP: I also think this is your first novel where written from an African American first person point of view. How do you approach writing from a different race or gender?
JRL: Except for historical situations, I just write people.
MP: In a way you create a counter legend to the standard legend of The West. Do you see a merit in legends?
JRL: I love the creation of myth. I tried to walk the line between myth, legend, and reality.
Join us here at BookPeople for a visit from Joe R. Lansdale, Thursday, June 25th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. Lansdale will be speaking and signing his latest novel, Paradise Sky. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.